The Value of the Kindergarten Year at LMS
The Primary Program as LMS is designed for children ages 3 – 6 years to incorporate a multi-age sequential curriculum. The first two years are explorative and interactive; the third and final year is one of mastery, leadership, and excellence.
The first year for three- or four-year-olds in a primary environment is that of exploration. In this year, children are keen observers and enjoy the introductory materials in practical life and sensorial areas like pouring, spooning, scrubbing, matching, grading, sorting, etc. Young children also enjoy the social component of the multi-aged setting. The younger children enjoy being paired with older children and look up to them as role models and leaders.
The second year of the Montessori experience is that of interaction. Upon completion of the first year, the child is comfortable in the environment with teachers and classmates and ready to explore and learn the Montessori materials in earnest. During this second year, children are gradually entering the next plane of development where friendships start to bloom and socialization takes priority. Four year olds are outgoing and gregarious and work tirelessly for some weeks and then take some time off to work on easier material before returning to more complex materials. When they see their classmates five and older working on attractive advanced materials, it peaks their interest and desire to learn so that they too can engage with those materials when they are ready.
The third and final year culminates the Montessori experience of the previous two years. This is the year of expertise and leadership. This final year binds the experiences of the preceding two years and provides five and six-year-olds many opportunities to use the advanced materials and extensions of materials they have mastered and improve their math and language skills. Five- and six-year-olds love to work towards goals on more challenging activities – and it’s even better with a partner! Primary Montessori environments require a proper blend of ages in the classroom for optimal functioning. Having just a few older five and six year olds impacts the functioning as an effective primary environment where the older children lead and serve as role models.
Preparing young four-year-olds who are midway through their Montessori experience and not quite enthusiastic to work on reading and math skills to enter Kindergarten puts undue pressure on the children and teachers. Although some children may be old enough chronologically, they are not quite enthusiastic cognitively to work on the language and math materials. Providing children the freedom to work on materials without this pressure gives them the freedom to work on materials without adult urging. Some children need more time to reach this developmental period and some less. But when they are ready to delve in math and language, they do so earnestly and master materials quickly. Most children love to “push themselves” to learn. They are suddenly seeing the advanced materials with a completely different perspective and their energy is infectious! They exhibit an insatiable appetite to learn and the Montessori materials are the perfect tools to satisfy this desire to learn and understand concepts. Parents are sometimes concerned that the mixed age classroom is not appropriate for Kindergarten aged children, in fact, this year uniquely prepares children to enter first grade with above grade level social and cognitive skills.
The multi-age Montessori environment allows the third year students to be the “big kids” in the class and they relish the experience of this year to function as classroom community leaders. The younger children look up to the older children as role models and helpers as they model appropriate behavior and readily assist when needed. Upon entering Kindergarten unfortunately, Kindergartners are sometimes labeled as the “little kids” and are deprived of the vital opportunity of community leadership in the Montessori environment. Most of our children entering Kindergarten are academically ready and are typically excelling above the Kindergarten level. Unfortunately, we have heard time and again that some of the LMS Kindergartners are not being challenged adequately – which is a great dis-service to the children who are ready to learn more and build on the solid foundation we have laid. We strongly encourage you to consider allowing your child to complete the Kindergarten year at LMS and enter first grade directly. This will allow your child to avoid boredom learning materials s/he has already mastered and for us to offer many more opportunities to develop skills in math, language, geography, etc. which are not offered by the public schools at the Kindergarten level.
Investment in the third and final year of a child’s Montessori curriculum pays huge dividends as we are told often by parents. Children who were provided the opportunity to complete this final year excel not only in elementary grades, but in junior high and beyond to become model citizens. If they are denied the opportunity to complete the full three year cycle in the Montessori environment, and the chance to be the leaders that they themselves had looked up to in the previous years, then they laid a foundation for something that was never completed.